Why you should just give up on that looming task

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Just give up.

I get it. It doesn’t sound like this is an inspirational post about getting things done when I start out by telling you to pack it in, but it’s the truth.

I don’t mean it in the grandiose “give up on your life’s dream” way. In fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Chances are that you have a to-do list. Chances are that it’s full of some things that you absolutely have to do and probably some things that you really want to do but I would bet that on that list of the things you’re going to do are a few things that you’re absolutely not going to do.

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I say this because I, too, have made lists about the things I’m going to accomplish and I, too, have realized that there are things on that list that just will not happen.

Some people look at those things as a failure. And those people would be right. When you say you are going to do something and you don’t, that’s a failure. That’s obvious.

However, how you approach that failure can make a huge difference.

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It’s very important to establish why you are crossing the task off of your list. Far too often, we just walk away from failure without understanding it first.

Lack of ability or resources

Generally, there are two reasons why we don’t accomplish something. The first reason is that we can’t. Either we lack the necessary abilities or we lack the necessary resources.

If you can’t because you don’t have the ability, does it make sense to acquire that ability? Is this the only time you’re going to need to do this or is this a task you could see yourself repeating? Is the ability hard to acquire or relatively painless?

If you’re planning on doing it again, it doesn’t matter how hard it is to learn, learn. If it’s not very hard to learn, learn. The only instance in which I would suggest that you not learn a skill is if it is difficult to learn and you’re not going to use it much.

It may be that the issue is you don’t have the resources. Depending on the resource, there may be no simple solution. If you need marketing help and you don’t have a marketing budget, that’s a problem…usually.

We are in the golden age of the collaborative economy. While you should never expect or require that someone agree, always look to leverage the skills and services that you have to offer. You’d be amazed how many people and businesses are willing to barter. If it’s mutually beneficial, then it is, by definition, a win-win.

Knowing when to move on

Maybe the issue is not that you can’t, but instead that you don’t want to. It is often the case that we outgrow our goals or that we recalibrate our intentions and our goals no longer fit our motivations.

However, I caution you in this respect.

It is very easy to lie to yourself here and say that you don’t want something just because you couldn’t get it. The “I didn’t want that anyways” mentality can be difficult to come to terms with. So be honest.

If you’ve worked your way through and determined that you are, in fact, not going to pursue that goal; just give up. Don’t dwell. The second that you’ve decided that that task is off your list, pretend it never existed.

First, keeping that goal in mind pulls your attention from other areas you’re actively pursuing. If you’re constantly thinking about the one that got away, you won’t actively be nurturing the relationship with your other goals.

Second, negative thinking is never good. You decided that you weren’t pursuing that goal. You made a conscious decision. So while you might feel a little bad that you didn’t achieve that goal, eliminating that goal from your list is part of the act of moving forward.

Productive people make lists. Those lists contain some things that are difficult to achieve and productive people fail all the time. How productive people deal with failure and how unproductive people deal with failure is a huge part of what makes up the difference between the two.

So maybe it’s time you gave up.

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About Mike Tanner

Mike Tanner is a writer, consultant and community builder in Halifax, NS. He has written for publications such as Yummy Mummy Club, Hustle & Grind and CBC while building his digital agency, OneRedCat, over the past 5 years. He is also a full-time stay at home father of two and a director with Podcamp Halifax. When he’s not writing, building or breaking up toddler fights, he’s typically controlling a Level 11 Ronin in Dungeons & Dragons, trying to figure out how to do yoga or playing/designing board games.

Mike is currently finishing up his first non-fiction book, a guide to productivity titled, Really Little Wins. It should be available in late 2017.

Also, make sure to check out Mike’s weekly podcast, Riding In Cars with Cats, where he talks all things entrepreneurship.

Leave a Comment



  1. Groundbreaking advice, truly.

    • It took me a long time to realize how much time I spent worried about tasks I was NEVER going to accomplish. The BEST part? Sometimes I end up circling back to the task once I’ve worked out some other details or gained some valuable insight.

  2. Makes good sense. It’s rumination that I struggle with and have only recently begun to realize. Great article. Very much enjoyed it. Cheers!

  3. “If you’ve worked your way through and determined that you are, in fact, not going to pursue that goal; just give up. Don’t dwell. ”

    I agree with everything in the post I think, but it’s a struggle to not dwell, to truly let something go. I can easily say that I’m not going to pursue a project, but they always seem to come back. I’ve got ideas bouncing around in my head from ten years ago that I still want to pursue (but not enough to have done them).

    Perhaps there are some strategies out there to truly get past old ideas and tasks and more or less erase them from memory (but probably not). On the other hand, maybe it’s ok that these ideas never really go away, and I should just accept that they’re going to always be there — there could be upsides to just accepting this as well.

  4. I am very fond of your blogging and posting. I like you every post.

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